Taking The Millie Small Cure

Before it was usual for cars to have seatbelts, and up front in most cars was a big bench seat for three, it was common practice to have the smallest passenger seated (or squatting or even standing!) front and centre, on what was jokingly called the suicide seat. Placing your tiniest and presumably cutest and most precious cargo so decidedly in harm’s way seems counter-intuitive, looking back.

Although our dad was able to roll a cigarette and drive a car simultaneously, once I was eight or nine and just able to see over the dashboard, he would sometimes have me take the wheel from the middle seat. Not in traffic, of course, but out on the open prairie road, straight as a die, where properly aligned vehicles can cruise for days without actually being steered.

Once that cigarette was rolled and lit, I handed back control of the car, then sat back and enjoyed the smell. I am not kidding: I truly loved the smell of cigarettes. Not so much the big clouds that issued from someone’s face, but the seductive wraith that drifted from the lit end as if from a genie’s lamp. It was best if the windows were left rolled up, which they were, mostly, from September through until May. I inhaled discreetly and wondered how grown-up one needed to be to have one’s own cigarettes. The common wisdom seemed to be fourteen. That was too many years away, so, having decided that twelve would be the new fourteen, I got myself underway a few weeks before turning thirteen. Coincidentally, this was half a century ago almost to the day.

And now exactly fifty years of close and mostly trouble-free friendship with the cigarette is at an end, not for any health or social or moral reasons, but because it has become just too insanely expensive to carry on. I smoked my last cigarette five weeks ago, and am surviving cold turkey on a diet of anti-depressants and too much coffee. Also lollipops. These surprisingly needn’t cost a heck of a lot more than they did fifty years ago, if you buy in bulk as I do. This is all working so far, though the cruel and inescapable irony is that the number one most effective cure for nicotine craving is, well, a cigarette. In fact, if you’re a sufficiently well-heeled hitherto abstainer, I warmly recommend taking up the smoking habit as soon as possible, if only for the unallayed joy of making the craving go away twenty or thirty times a day. The more you smoke, the more of these magical moments you have. It just makes so much sense.

Anyhoo, I’ll make do with the above curative cocktail. The chemicals and the coffee I can take or leave as the need for them recedes. But after five weeks and a couple hundred of the things, I find I am now powerfully addicted to lollipops. And isn’t that, in a way, a metaphor for life? You know: it’s just one damned thing after another.

Here’s Millie.

Advertisements

Will I See You In September…

… or lose you to a summer love? Well, I’m back, and I wish I could blame my recent absence on an endless prairie summer vacation with Shelley Fabares, and a summer love with her or anyone else. Sadly the facts are not so sunny as that, and involve a bleak, unfriendly and spiritually debilitating winter, nearer to the South Pole than people ought to go. This is all the complaining and excuse-making you’ll get from me; happier and warmer days are here again.

In Stephen King’s 11/22/63 , the hero Jake has a portal, in back of a diner, through which he can flip out of his present and into September 1958, and then back again if he needs to—but of course why would he want to? I winced each time he returned, however necessarily and briefly, to his 21st century situation, and dreaded that he wouldn’t be able to flip back again into the entirely more charming Eisenhower/Kennedy version of Maine and then Texas, settle in, and stay forever.

To write Winnipegland I similarly have not simply to remember, but actually to be in the right time and place. My portal is the “gopher hole” of the subtitle, and for the past couple of months I’ve been required to be so very much involved in my own 2015 that I’ve had trouble remembering where that gopher hole could be. So Winnipegland has been in hiatus, but now the hiatus needs a hiatus.

While I look for that old gopher hole, or stumble upon some new portal to genuine time travel, I’ll have to resort to memory and to the occasional secondary source. I might begin with an account of my brief career as a four year old skirtlifter, a discussion of the lurking evil of playground equipment, or maybe something about a summer camp run by an alarmingly liberal branch of the Mennonite church. We shall see. God forbid I should have to emulate Mr King, and start making stuff up.